Anyone earning more than £27,500 a year will be barred from receiving Legal Aid in the magistrates' courts under proposals republished yesterday.
The Government's Criminal Defence Service Bill - issued for a second time after falling at the end of the last Parliament - will bring back means testing for criminal cases in the lower courts.
Ministers said the measures would save an estimated £35 million of the current £300 million spend.
Legal Aid Minister Bridget Prentice said: "We believe that those who are charged with an offence and can afford to pay, should pay."
The cut- off point of £ 27,500 gross annual income was chosen because it is Britain's average wage.
The Legal Services Commission will also take over responsibility for administering Legal Aid payments.
Of the 650,000 people a year, who presently get Legal Aid for criminal cases in magistrates' courts, 110,000 are expected to have to pay for their own solicitor or defend themselves as a result.
Ms Prentice said: "The Bill will help us make the best use of Legal Aid and provide value for money for the taxpayer, while protecting people's fundamental rights.
"It will also ensure that the cost of criminal Legal Aid does not continue to erode the civil Legal Aid scheme, which plays a vital role in fighting social exclusion and addressing the needs of the most vulnerable in society."
Under-16s and people with an annual income of less than £15,000 will automatically receive Legal Aid.
Those earning between £15,000 and £27,500 will be assessed on their individual circumstances, and defendants earning above £27,500 will be expected to pay for their own defence in the magistrates' courts.
There have been some "technical changes" between the Bill's first appearance last December and yesterday's publication, affecting the way costs of dependants will be totted up, a Department for Constitutional Affairs spokeswoman said.
Defendants in the lower courts already have to meet " interests of justice" requirements to win Legal Aid, which will remain in place. To win public funds they must be charged with an imprisonable offence, may lose their livelihood if convicted, or are unable to follow proceedings in the court, for example because of mental impairment.